Magic Story Review: “Trust”
When I noted last week that Gideon’s arc this block was going to be about his faith and the existence of gods on Bolas’ plane, I admit I didn’t expect us to dive so deep so quickly. Let’s take a look James Wyatt’s story this week and talk about whether Gideon is making the right decision in giving Amonkhet’s God of Solidarity his “Trust.”
Arriving at the City, the Gatewatch attracts some attention from the locals. The breaching of the magical barrier, the Hekma, seems to have piqued the crowd’s interest. A mage in charge of maintaining the Hekma arrives to mend the resulting hole, and thankfully the hole’s closing on itself lends credence to the façade that the Gatewatch knows what they’re doing. Jace uses telepathy to weave a just credible enough story, with some patchwork from Liliana’s guile, to diffuse the situation.
The Hekma mage hands the Gatewatch over to Temmet, who Jace best perceives is “an authority figure of some kind.” Temmet gives them a tour, the Gatewatch having justified their naïveté by claiming to have been in the desert on a mission for too long. It seems as though the entire city is training for so-called “Trials.” All labor is delegated to mummies known as “The Anointed.”
Temmet’s eyes grew wide, and he spun to look at the horns. “May his return come quickly,” he said under his breath, as if by reflex.
His return? Gideon thought. So he’s not here. Did Liliana lie to us?
“Things here seem to have changed somewhat in our absence,” she continued. “Would you be so kind as to be our guide into the city?”
“And may we be found worthy,” Temmet said, frowning at her.
Liliana tilted her head at the apparent non sequitur, but Jace stepped in, repeating the young man’s words. “Apologies,” he added. “The sun has befuddled our brains.”
Gideon’s faith was brutally damaged by the events that ignited his spark, further complicating his emotions about gods that might be created by Bolas. Now, here stands a god among their people interacting and helping in a way the aloof Theros gods never did. “You are one of mine, Kytheon Iora,” the god, Oketra, says before declaring that the other walkers’ fates had not yet been decided.
Gideon was already confused by the gods’ presence here, the sense of his faith being renewed, of being “one of [Oketra’s].” Well, we’ll get back to that in a moment.
There are only two rooms open for lodging. Gideon goes to the shared balcony to contemplate things, giving Chandra a chance to sneak in a both philosophically deep and very meta question: “so, what is a god, actually?” Yes, what constitutes a “god” in the Magic multiverse? What earns that creature type? The Eldrazi Titans are like gods; Planeswalkers were like gods. The Kami are gods, but they have the creature type “spirit” (granted Shinto doesn’t draw to big a line between the two as I understand it). Gideon eventually gives the answer that they are beings that are part of the plane’s fabric of existence, manifestations of some specific aspect, and yet also a person. For more on the nature of Theros’ gods, in particular, I’d check out Kelly Digges’ story “Kruphix’s Insight.”
[The Guide is ] more controversial than Oolon Colluphid’s trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person Anyway?
-Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Emphasis mine.
The conversation is interrupted by a commotion in the streets below. Some citizen (soon, former-citizen) seems to have had the gall to foreshadow that the Trials and the return of the God-Pharaoh won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. Temmet apologizes for the commotion and leaves them to settle himself in.
Somehow Liliana has managed to get one of them to herself. With only three beds in the other room, Gideon makes his spot on the floor so that each of the others can have their own bed, and the “GrullFriends” shippers have to continue waiting for Chandra and Nissa having to share a bed.
Unable to sleep, Gideon finds himself wandering the city in thought, crossing paths with Oketra just before dawn, ending this week’s story.
“What are you seeking, Kytheon Iora?” she asked him, kneeling again.
Answers, he thought. Meaning. Stability. Faith.
“You,” he said.
It seems that when Gideon says something is messy, what he really means is “the rest of the color pie.” He may have helped found the Gatewatch, but he clearly wasn’t prepared for a group of such differing views. He is not accustomed to not being the capital “L” Leader. Even in the Battle for Zendikar block, he was the general; the others were aiding the army he led. but since the Gatewatch, leadership has been …ambiguous. Jace clearly operates the paperwork (Azor knows he has the experience for that) and that seems to make him feel like he should give orders. That being said, even Jace has respect for Gideon’s leadership in the field. It makes me wonder if part of the issue is Gideon being unable to recognize there are very different kinds of leadership apart from ‘in the field’.
As mentioned above, Gideon’s faith was in shambles, and yet here is a god that embodies precisely what he feels the Gatewatch lacks: solidarity. Of course, Gideon is drawn to this, to a god that commands a domain Jace seems to desire as much as he desires his faith to no longer be broken.
Solidarity is by all means a virtue, but it can be twisted. We have seen the dark side of White’s slice of the color pie a lot lately: the xenophobia of Innistrad’s Inquisitors, the totalitarianism of Kaladesh’s Consulate, all focusing on some idea of order, of “us” over “I.” History has shown that people can come together in solidarity under some truly horrific people because they are promised that things will be better and they will be part of a greater whole. Such movements grow by finding followers that are broken down, hopeless, faithless, feeling as though they have no purpose.
You thought I was done with throwing political shade when we left Kaladesh?
I do not mean to say that finding faith is a bad thing, but this is a world created by Bolas, a world that from what we’ve seen, deifies him above even the gods. And Gideon has been led astray before, serving the Order of Heliud in “The Purifying Fire”. Perhaps I am too cynical, but I think putting his trust in Oketra will be a major folly.
“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.”
-Terry Prachett , “Witches Abroad”